November is Alzheimer’s Awareness month. For the better part of this year, an East Tennessee man has given us more than a glimpse of what life is like living with a disease that will, more than likely, lead to his death.
Ray Dedrick was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease two years ago. We’ve seen his good days, spending time with friends. And then we have seen days where he struggles to remember even simple words.
Now the disease is forcing him to step back from something that has been a part of his life for two decades.
Mr. Ray, as the kids call him, has guided and ministered to the youth through the Awana program at West Park Baptist Church for 20 years.
“I mean it was just so rewarding,” said Dedrick. “It was so neat to share the word of Christ with them and for them to memorize a verse and to see the look on their face when they got it right.”
But the children’s strong spiritual leader recognizes he can no longer keep up.
“It's time to the pass the baton on to someone else," he said.
Alzheimer’s and a traumatic brain injury are taking a physical toll on Dedrick. It's slowly robbing him of his memory and stealing his vision.
Church has always been his safe haven, but these days he finds more security and comfort at home.
“I don't have to be afraid that I'm going to slip and call somebody by the wrong name,” said Dedrick.
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Recently, West Park Baptist leaders and youth recognized Dedrick for his many years of service. They gathered in the church gym to say thank you.
“Just to hear some of the parents and to hear them say, 'You have no idea what you've meant to our child,’” Dedrick said.
Dedrick, with his wife Tee by his side, posed for a picture with the church youth. It’s one more moment he will cherish as long as he can because he knows in time the memory will vanish.